Waukon resident coordinating first-ever Spring Grove Film Festival; Actor Ed Asner will be the featured guest

Shining among the stars ... Pictured above is Katie O’Regan (right) of Waukon with award-winning actor Ed Asner (left). The two met during a film screening evening in Los Angeles and that initial meeting has turned into Asner being the special guest throughout the inaugural Spring Grove International Film Festival coordinated by O’Regan and scheduled for September 11-13. Submitted photo.

The efforts of Waukon resident Katie O’Regan have resulted in one of the most awarded and beloved actors in primetime television coming to the tri-state area for a weekend celebration in Spring Grove, MN September 11-13. The inaugural Spring Grove International Film Festival scheduled for that second weekend in September will feature acclaimed actor Ed Asner as a special guest in a variety of events presented this first year by Giants of the Earth Heritage Center in Spring Grove, MN and Sacred Noise Society, Inc.

O’Regan is the daughter of Francis and the late Leona O’Regan of Waukon and recently moved back to the area and was hired as the development director at Giants of the Earth Heritage Center. Accomplished in the arts as an actress, dancer, producer, director and writer, O’Regan established many connections throughout her career - one of which ultimately led to her getting to meet Asner.

Best known and most honored for his role as Lou Grant on both the Mary Tyler Moore Show and his character namesake spin-off, Asner more recently starred in an independent film directed by one of O’Regan’s industry acquaintances, Brian Connors, who had actually reached out to O’Regan on social media after seeing her post about the first-ever film festival in Spring Grove. Titled “Senior Entourage,” O’Regan encouraged Connors to enter his film into her inaugural festival, and that proved to be just the first step to growing the event to its current celebrity-based celebration.

In further discussing the film, Connors extended an invitation to O’Regan to a screening event for it in Los Angeles, CA, which she happily accepted. During an audience session following the film screening, Connors introduced O’Regan and talked about the film festival she was planning in the small Midwest town of Spring Grove, MN that his movie would be a part of.

“As I was making my way on stage, I heard Ed (Asner) say, ‘Katie O’Regan - that’s a beautiful stage name.’ I turned to him and said, ‘Mr. Asner, that’s my real name’,” O’Regan shared.

O’Regan was then invited out to dinner with Connors and the cast. “Ed sat down by me and we talked about the industry and my new film festival,” O’Regan shared. “It was unreal!”

It wasn’t until after she returned to Waukon that she had the notion of inviting Asner to her film festival, an idea she said was prompted by a message from Connors saying, “Ed Asner really loved you!”

Through Connors and Asner’s daughter, an invitation was extended and ultimately accepted by Asner to attend the first-ever Spring Grove International Film Festival. From the acceptance of that invitation, further plans began to unfold in making Asner’s appearance at the inaugural Spring Grove event something even greater than what was intended.

The film festival itself will involve the showing of some 40 movies of varying lengths and subject matter. Historical family documentaries, feature films, Norwegian films and films by Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin filmmakers are among those initially listed by O’Regan, with the actual film list being released closer to the event date.

Those films will be shown Friday and Saturday, September 11 and 12 at three locations: Giants of the Earth Heritage Center, Spring Grove Cinema and Ye Olde Opera House, all in Spring Grove, MN. Passes for the Friday and Saturday showings are good for all films, which include question and answer sessions with filmmakers on site.

Those attending are asked to practice social distancing, and bring their own seating for the outdoor venues. Only 30 people will be allowed per screening at the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center, and Spring Grove Cinema will operate at 25 percent of its seating capacity. Tickets can also be purchased to view selected films from the festival online from September 11-25.

In addition to those festival films, the animated film “Up” from 2009, for which Asner provided the voice of the lead role of Carl Fredericksen, will be screened Friday and Saturday nights at Gray’s Barn outdoor theatre. There will also be an “Up” character costume with prizes Saturday night at that showing.

Asner will also be in attendance at a ticket-only event Friday evening at the Ma Cal Grove Country Club in Caledonia, MN. The formal evening will include a bar, hors d’oeuvres and dessert and is limited to 200 tickets being sold to benefit Giants of the Earth Heritage Center.

Sunday, September 13 has been designated “Up, Up and Away with Ed Asner Day” and will feature a parade at 12:30 p.m. through the streets of Spring Grove, MN. For more information about the film festival, visit www.giantsoftheearth.org.

As an additional fundraising opportunity for the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center, O’Regan has teamed up with famed Spring Grove Soda Pop, Inc. to create two new flavors of soda pop in honor of Ed Asner. Those flavors include strawberry and a grape flavor that ties into a touching element of the “Up” movie being shown during the festival.

Giants of the Earth Heritage Center in Spring Grove will be the benefactor of a majority of the weekend’s activities. More information can be found at www.giantsoftheearth.org.

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